Saturday, May 24, 2014


Costs just keep going up on everything and I'm looking for ways to save. Right now our fuel bill is through the roof with the running back and forth between houses moving.  We have a couple loads left and were done. Then it is clean up and put it on the market while we finish doing the final touches. Then I'll be praying like crazy that the house sells quickly for mowing two places will be a nightmare. We mowed this last time we went and it took hours and hours. The grass ranged between 7 inches with the bluegrass and 1 1/2 feet with the native grass. Half a strip across the yard and the bag needed changed. Lots of rain this year. It means the Lark Buntings have returned. They only come to the prairie when their is an abundance of rain. The stubby little black bird has a white stripe across each wing and they were gone for years as the area suffered from a long drought. It is good to see them back.

Prices of fuel and food have skyrocketed and I hate going to the grocery store because it seems that each visit the costs are higher and higher. It has me thinking self sufficiency to survive with our income not rising. Onions and potatoes have always been poor folk food and we are growing them in abundance this year. I have three kinds of onions I'm growing and three kinds of potatoes.
With this backdrop, gardening takes on a whole new adventure. Who would want to stay inside?

My choice for potatoes is King Harry, Norkotah, and Red Norland. King Harry's I love. They are one tough potato as they were the only one of the three to make it through the hail last year and produced a small crop. We ate the small crop and saved the tiny ones to put back into the ground this year. I hope tiny ones make a good crop. We will find out. Just in case I ordered a small amount of new seed potatoes to compare production levels with. Then I'll know when it is really up to me whether I should have eaten the small ones and saved the larger ones. Like I said, nothing had much size on them. King Harry's will be my backbone though they aren't my favorite as far as flavor goes.

The Red Norlands I love for their flavor but the crop yield is about half of King Harry. As for the Norkotahs -- the vote is out. I put them in last year and lost the crop to the hail. I'm giving them another try for the state, North Dakota, where they come from is one cold place and is a neighbor.

I was planting and got to thinking, could I do this better? When you are thinking survival it changes things dramatically. Off to the Internet I went. I learned a bunch but I was left with questions unanswered that I'm going to research further. Potatoes are one of the eight major staple crops in the world and that tells you that if you like potatoes, they need to take a front seat in your survival preparations. The other reason is that they grow from 15000 feet down to below sea level.

 One side of my family hails originally from Idaho, yes, we love our potatoes. That line goes back to Scotland and England. Ireland is not far off and when I think of potatoes I always think of the potato famine they had. The root of that problem was that one variety was grown almost exclusively and when that kind was plagued by disease, it left hunger in its wake. Lesson number one -- variety is best. I'm wanting three kinds of potatoes. I hope I've found them and that they are different enough from each other that disease won't be a problem with them.
Here is the trees that were and I emphasize were growing against the garden shed.

My Internet research revealed that flower sterility is common in potatoes, due to hundreds of years of hybridization. I'm not much into hybridization. In modern times it means uniform size, a long freshness date  and few vitamins. In the olden times it meant a hardier crop. That is why I stick with heirloom seeds. Some say the yields are lower but for sure the vitamin levels are higher. What good does that do you when you have to super size your meal to get the same nutrients in a smaller portion of heirloom.  I understand the farmers move to use the hybridized as they sell by the pound.

 My next step is to produce as much of my own seeds as possible. My seed bill is through the roof and that has to change. Potatoes are easy. Just reserve some potatoes of the right size from the year before. Easy that is as long as the weather cooperates. The surprising twist about potatoes is that pollination is carried out by "two bumble bee species, Bombus terricola and Bombus impatiens only. Honey bees and other bumble bees will not pollinate potatoes, as the male flower has no nectar to attract them. B. terricola and B. impatiens loosen the pollen from the stamen by a process called sonication, or buzzing the pollen, in which their vibrations release the pollen from its sacs. Because the potato flowers contain both male and female parts and are not wind-pollinated, plants do not cross-pollinate as readily in nature." Good news as you can plant different kinds fairly close together.

{Read more: Potatoes contain iron, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-1 and vitamin B-6, and they are low in calories unless of course you like butter and sour cream on yours like I do.}

This was new, "Potatoes should be rotated in the garden, never being grown in the same spot until there has been a 3-4 year absence." I've only given the plots a couple years break in the past. "Potatoes may be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the early spring, but they will not begin to grow until the soil temperature has reached 45 degrees F. potatoes." I grow my potatoes in rows digging a hole and plopping in a spud that I've cut leaving an eye or two. They say dig the hole 6-8 inches but I'm not measuring. Do put the cut side down and space every 12-15 inches apart. I don't measure there either but it is approximately that. Your rows are suppose to be three feet apart and I definitely don't do that. I do a couple rows fairly close together and then a wider row between the next rows of potatoes. Most times I don't do more than the two rows in any one area. I prefer the method of planting your vegetables all over the garden. I went to a lecture once and it made perfect sense. They said to plant all over the place the same vegetable for the soil may be better in one area than another and the sun hits better in one area than another. Also if there is a large area planted in one crop, it attracts bugs to them more readily. Spread out the crop and won't likely all be hit as hard. In other words you are not putting all your eggs in one basket. One plot will definitely do better than another.
The round potatoes are King Harry's and the oblong ones are Norkotah. \
You are suppose to expose the potatoes a few days to light so that they begin to sprout before planting. It has never been a problem before since I've not had a really good place to store potatoes and usually they have long sprouts sticking out of them before and I'm worried about getting them planted in time before they rot. That was something new to me and someday when we have a root cellar it will come in handy.

For those with really small gardens you can limit potatoes space and harvest the potatoes small. Up north when we dig, we find big ones and little ones anyway because our season is so short. The watering info was good though. "Keep your potato vines well watered throughout the summer, especially during the period when the plants are flowering and immediately following the flowering stage. When the foliage turns yellow and begins to die back, discontinue watering."

What I didn't know was when you could harvest baby potatoes. Not that I've done that often in the past as I just didn't have that many potatoes but I might this year. You can harvest 2-3 weeks after the plants finishes flowering. As for storage you shouldn't dig until 2-3 weeks after the foliage dies. Nice thought but we have a tendency to freeze hard before then so we end up digging and letting our potatoes dry in the basement or garage. They should sit unwashed for 2-3 days to cure and harden the skins to form a protective covering. This curing is essential for storing.

The storage part has always been a challenge for us, well ventilated, dark, cool with the ideal temperature between 35 and 40 degrees F. Our garage is insulated in this new place and I'm planning on putting my potatoes out there for a while. My only question is during the below zero stretch we always have in December plus, my husband's shop will be out there and he will be running the wood stove. That means warm, cool, warm, cool unless one corner will stay better. We will have to see. The second option will be in the crawl space below the house. We haven't checked it out yet but I'm hoping it will work until we can build a cellar. I plan on putting some beets, brussel sprouts and the like in pots down there to try and create my own seeds next year. We need to scope it out today. The ultimate goal is to build a cellar into the hill here but that is years away.

All this information was straight forward. The part that says that home gardeners can save seed for several generations, save the very best potatoes for planting sounds good and made sense until--. it said that "after several years the size of the potatoes begins to decrease; this is typical." So the potatoes that the home gardener saves for generations eventually becomes really small or are they just referring to the non heirloom type? How are they getting the big potatoes commercially then if over the years they grow smaller?  When they say buy USDA Certified Seed Stock every year to prevent this then is it really a ploy? Sounds like a buy Angus beef commercial or the new Kosher hot dog commercial. It is amazing how gullible people are. I hate to tell the Angus beef people but most of the beef taste the same. There are a few exceptions like last year I discovered Corrientes. They've been around for ever but I haven't tasted them. The meat tastes better and is better for you.

I did have my carrots go woody after I had let them go to seed for about four years. I'm going to find out why. Saving seed is going to be a big deal in the future. Think about it. As times grow more challenging, more people will begin to grow a garden, the seed industry will not be able to keep up. Prices will rise until things stabilize between the suppliers and growers. That is as long as the weather cooperates. I'm not seeing any sign of that so far.

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